Since ancient times man has taken for granted that “like begets like,” and when a child or animal was born that deviated greatly from the parental image it was an impressive event to primitive man. Men and women talked about it and often transmitted their tales through generations, thus developing various myths as the story changed with time. Sometimes they made images of the wondrous birth or perpetuated the event in writing. Attitudes about abnormal infants and children and their parents changed according to the cultural state of the tribe or nation, ranging from admiration or adoration to rejection and hostility. Reactions of different peoples to births of abnormal beings are of general interest because they reflect the population’s knowledge, leniency, fears, or cruelty at the time of the unusual incident. Although attitudes changed greatly at different times and in different locations, one finds that there were certain patterns of responses which seem to be inherent in the human mind. Deviations from the normal form of newborn beings vary greatly from minor changes to striking abnormalities. Twins are unusual births in man, but twins, united and inseparable, are most miraculous and impressive apparitions which can not escape notice wherever they occur.


Congenital Malformation Osteogenesis Imperfecta Club Foot Cleft Palate Hybridity Theory 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1977

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josef Warkany
    • 1
  1. 1.Children’s Hospital Research FoundationCincinnatiUSA

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